Disasters like the current global pandemic invite us to ask two questions about the relation between our faith and our disaster. First, what, as a matter of historical fact, happens to faith when disaster hits? And second, what is the logical or theological relation between disasters and the tenets of our faith, especially the dogma of divine providence? How does a disaster fit into God’s plan?
The answer to the first question is as clear as the answer to the second is mysterious. Studies tend to show that while some people doubt and reject their faith during times of disasters such as plagues, pandemics and economic depressions, most people become more religious rather than less. Just last week a study from the University of Copenhagen, looking at data from 75 countries, found that Google searches for “prayer” have rocketed over the past month.
In fact, the richer and more comfortable a person or a nation is, the less religious it usually becomes; the more poverty or danger, the more religion. Contrast the poorest continent today with the richest. Religion in Africa is booming, not only in quantity but in quality. It is dynamic and passionate. Miracles are common. The seminaries are bursting at the seams.